Notes written by Major Thomas Masters Usborne (1866-1952) around 1930.
The construction of a 'Family Tree' which has practically no cohesion - by
which I mean that a few odd near relations of the same name know one another
and their more distant cousins and ancestors, but are not connected up - is
a matter of some difficulty, much patience and no little expense! If each
branch had its own 'caretaker', and if each of these reported casualties as
they occurred, to the 'head keeper', the keeping up of the whole tree would
be comparatively simple. But, if the head keeper has to watch for all
casualties, it is not reasonable to think he can be up to date, or even
correct in such entries that he has made.
Where the name is a (so called) common one, I venture to think it would be
the work of a person bordering on lunacy who attempted to start a Tree, but
with an uncommon name, the job is comparatively easy, and so much more
interesting, as whenever the name occurs, it may be 'one of us', and most
Whatever the name, it is quite impossible to get all the members of a family
dating back to times when writing (and reading) was a profession, and very
few people took the trouble to learn to spell! Old Wills - from which the
best evidence is obtainable, as they are official - were written in 'early
English' character, and a great many of them in Latin. To attempt to get
surnames and place names correctly written, and afterwards correctly
re-translated, was evidently the reason of the confusion of names. I have
seen our name spelt in more than a dozen different ways, and who can say
that Husborne is or is not related to Usban, Osbourne, etc. Some assistance
in putting together mis-spelt surnames is obtainable from lands passed on
from one generation to another; in the same document the name is sometimes
spelt in more than two different ways. Until I had seen for myself the
awful conundrums presented by trying to decipher some of these ancient
documents, I thought it possible to keep the names separate; having seen
them, I am bound to change my opinions on that subject. There are officials
and others who make a study of it, and charge a small fee to decipher these
There have been many (male) Usbornes in former times and it seems
extraordinary that the name is now almost extinct; but while it is alive, it
may of course continue and perhaps increase. The last branch to become
extinct - at least, so I believe - was Thomas Starling (1834-1903) to
whom Loddenden (at Staplehurst) - the old family mansion - descended. His
wife died 3 years after him. It will be observed, by referring to the Tree,
that the descendants of Alexander (1691-1737) are the only ones we know
of, and many of them have become extinct. (This was written in 1922 - see
below for correction TMU ).
It seems impossible to connect the (so called) Staplehurst branch with ours,
but perhaps it may be done by some keen descendant at some future time. It
appears to 'join up' earlier than the dates we have at present (1922); I may
find it, but I don't think so. That tree, though well cared for as regards
eldest sons, seems to have ignored the younger members of families, but I
cannot find among the latter any connecting link to our branch. (or any
other branches tree).
From the evidence of Wills and other documents, it appears that Kent was the
home of the ancestors. There was a strong detachment round about Hertford
between 1760-1840, and a smaller one about Lindfield (Sussex) and Brighton
(Sussex) towards the commencement of 1700 for a short time; there were of
course stragglers in other places. But during the last 100 or so years
there has been an American 'invasion', which has flourished as I am sure
that anyone will find who takes on this job after me! I have myself met
Usbornes there, but before I began this; and they have escaped me. The
senior living branch is headed by John (b 1842) of Honolulu, who has three
grandsons (born 1910, 11 & 13) and the family name may thrive in the
other hemisphere as much as or more than in this. It seems very curious
that of all the married males to carry on the name, besides the Honolulu
branch just mentioned, at the moment (Christmas 1922) the descendants of
Thomas (1769-1836) - who number seven males, born between 1907 & 1920 -
are the only male survivors, of the younger generation.
I cannot say by whom the 'Tree' was brought to its present condition: viz.
till I took it over in 1921. From the attached photos & drawings it will be
observed that someone took an interest in his own branch, and where is the
beautiful tablet (?) from which the photograph is taken? I think it necessary
to put 'pen & paper' the information afforded by these photographs, as time &
usage will gradually make them more and more indistinct. Taken from
photograph of fly leaf in Loddenden prayerbook. (Where is the original?)
' In family of the Usborne's of Loddenden in Staplehurst in the County of
Kent, of late years known more by the .....?????
Osbert Osborne born in 1405....
John Osborne his son in 1430.....
Thos Osborne his son 1480 Died 1534.
Thos Osborne his son in 1520 do 1588.
Thos Usborne his son in 1551 do 1611.
Thos Usborne his son in 1581 do 1666.
Thos Usborne his son in 1614 do 1674.
NB the above had 3 sons & one daughter who married Mr Cole of Hedcorne.
Thos Usborne died a bachelr.
Will.m Usborne Bor, 1667 Died 1724
Edw Usborne Died a Bachelr.
The above Wllm. Usborne married Han Toke eldest daughter of John & *** Toke
of Marden had 4 sons & 2 daughters, viz
Thos, Elizh, Willm, Elizh, Edwd, and John
John Usborne married Mary Daughter of Richd & Eliz Lambert of Fleet Street,
had 3 chidn liv. to be men & wo
Eliz born Nov 9 1744
Chambers do Nov 22 1753
Edwd do Aug 30 1757. '
In later days, I know that John (b.1842) George (b.1845) & Thomas Starling
(1834-1903) all worked on the pedigree & kept it alive, as I had some
correspondence & many documents from them. But it is known Mr Everett (died
in 1924) was the first to put all the stray leaves into one bound book. This
Mr Everett - a clerk under Thomas (1810-1915) at Writtle - was
'introduced' to the work largely owing to Margaret Anne (b.1865) who
interested herself & did much useful work for a few years about 1897 on.
On taking it over myself, I made friends with the College of Arms and many
pleasant times I have spent with Mr Cochrane - Chester Herald - & much he
has assisted; many are the details he required to make the 'Tree'
sufficiently official for part of it to be admitted to the records of the
College, & many pleasant days & conversations have I spent looking up (&
paying for!) information received. The 'modern' portion - 1730 & later -
has been ready for some months, with the exception of a few 'missing'
details, which seem impossible to obtain & are therefore holding up the
The 'Tree' is not official - by which I mean, that although all the entries
have been taken from Wills (official) gravestones, family Bible, tablets &
brasses in Churches, receipts on documents & memories (admitted by the
College of Arms) memorial rings & cards - & will not hold good legally. I
have indirect evidence, that there once existed in Staplehurst Church many
more tablets than are now in position there. Is it possible that these,
perhaps broken up, are somewhere underground there?
It would be well to destroy - if possible - the fallacy that there is an
USBORNE Coat of Arms, which of course includes a crest. In 1899 one T.
R.Rolfe wrote ' arms were granted to Usborne in 1613; Quarterly, 1st & 4th
ar 5 Ermine Spots, Sa; 2nd & 3rd ar, a Cross or.' There is no such
episode at the College of Arms. There is in the Lumley Chapel of Cheam
(Surrey) Church on Thos.Usborn alias Osborn's gravestone a shield similar
to the above, with an heraldic tiger for crest - no motto. Also on the
Staplehurst 'tablet'. The arms of William Usborne (1666-1724) were the
same, with the addition of - Livery brown coat & waistcoat, cuffs & collar
scarlet; round hat with gold band & gold epaule. But these arms are those
of Sir Edward Osborne, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1583 & whose
descendants were created Dukes of Leeds (Godolphin-Osborne). Should they
spell their name with a U , or should we spell ours with an O? & are we
related?. But where did Mr Rolfe (deceased) get his information ? There
is, however, registered in the College of Arms, a Coat of Arms
complete in every detail, taken out in 1809 by John (1769-1858) of Broad
St, City of London, Thomas (1770-1845) of Ware, Co. Herts & Henry
(1778-1840) of Quebec & Elizabeth (1765-1811), Jane (1772-1839) & Sophia
(1781-1845) all brothers & sisters. It will be observed that (George)
William (1767-1803) the eldest brother was dead at that time - 1809 - but
I know of no reason why the only other member of that branch James
(1773-1807) was not included. (I now find - 1924 - that he was dead.)
The only male descendants of the above named, who had issue, was John
(1805-1843) who had one son only Henry Alfred (1838-9) and Thomas Henry
(1809-1869) who had one son only, viz., Thomas Starling (1834-1903), who
died without issue. That Coat of Arms is therefore extinct. It might be
found quartered on a female married descendant of the above original owners,
viz. Sophia- the others died unmarried. It seems unfortunate that (George)
William (1767-1803), who has many descendants now living, was not alive
when the Grant was given, then the Coat of Arms would have had a chance of
a long existence - but in that branch of the family only.
But the old crest is kept on - & very wrongly - by ( I think) all the
other branches; they have absolutely no right to it. It is to be seen on
their silver & cutlery, and in some cases on dinner services & other china.
I think - although there is a beautiful painting of this Coat of Arms on a
hatchment to Henry (1778-1840) in Cowlinge Church (near Newmarket)- the
best, at any rate I have seen, is on a brass in Bradfield (near Reading,
Berks) Church to the memory of Thomas and Agnes Elizabeth.
Christmas 1925. Three years have passed since the above was written. What
have I done? I have nothing to cancel what is already entered, except
perhaps that JOHN (1842-1926) of Honolulu is displaced from the
position I gave him of Senior (living) branch, a small matter - that I have
'rounded up' a large contingent from America. Walking one day in Marden
(Kent) Churchyard - not searching for names on tombstones, I had done that
before - my attention was taken by a newly erected tombstone. That man
Thomas (1838-1919) had lived many years at Chipstead nr. Sevenoaks (Kent)
within 100 miles of all of us, & not one of us knew of his existence! I
have since been told he was 'keen' on his family tree; what a lot of
information was lost with his decease! Many days (pedigree) hunting have
I had from that day of discovery; viz. the information which led to the
Rochester (Kent) & Frittenden (Kent) 'Trees'.
The Coat of Arms.
Autumn 1928. - Again nearly three years have passed!
Early in 1927, Margaret (1865- ) asked me how much it would cost to get a
Coat of Arms, I told her something over £75. She sent me £75 and asked me to
produce a Coat of Arms, if her brothers & sisters would 'find' the rest of
the money. This was easily done, the total cost being £92.5.0. The
question arose, what should it be ? I suggested a mixture of that 'used'
by the Staplehurst Branch - which is not recorded at the College of Arms - &
that officially recorded at the College of Arms, taken out by the branch
mentioned previously in 1809 - which Branch is extinct.
After some correspondence among ourselves & a representative of the